Twelve years ago, when my husband and I decided to look for our ideal community, we created a “Top 10 Features” list that included bike-friendly streets and a good bus system. We selected Corvallis as our new hometown, drove across the country, sold our car, and joined the growing numbers of Americans choosing to live car-free.
I’m 69 years old. But when I get on my bike and head off to downtown Corvallis or up to Bald Hill, I feel like I’m eight years old again. There’s a sense of freedom that comes with riding a bike, and, thanks to the extensive system of bike lanes and bike paths in Corvallis, it’s easy to get around town. I can go where cars can’t (my favorite route downtown is through the OSU campus and down the elm-lined path between 14th and 11th), and parking is rarely a problem. The cost savings are enormous: by AAA estimates, we’re saving nearly $9,000 annually by not owning a car.
Aerobic exercise is built into my daily routine, and I’m far more connected to both the natural and human environment than I would be in a car – a benefit to both emotional and mental health. If I live to a ripe old age, I envision “graduating” to an ELF, a covered solar and pedal-powered three-wheeler.
When people find out that my bike is my primary mode of transportation, questions generally come up about carrying groceries, riding in the rain, or travelling out of town. My answers are simple:
- For carrying groceries, our local bike shops sell baskets and panniers, and there is a variety of inexpensive and versatile carts that can be hitched to your bike. We carry our groceries and all kinds of things by bike.
- For riding in the rain, it’s easy to find good rain gear at our local retail and thrift stores. On the rare occasions that the roads are covered with snow or ice, I ride the bus.
- For out-of-town travel, we rely on the bus, train, rental cars, and carpooling opportunities. While riding the bus or train usually adds time to my trip, I appreciate the opportunity to slow down, relax, and leave the driving to someone else. Among my favorite out-of-town trips are the Coast-to-Valley Express to Newport and the Cascades train to Portland.
The ease and safety of traveling by bike are a matter of perspective and practice. I find it’s convenient to put on my helmet, hop on my bike, take the less-travelled side streets of Corvallis, and park my bike close to my destination. In terms of safety, I ride my bike just as I used to drive a car – defensively and by the rules of the road.
Biking, walking, skateboarding, and other forms of active transportation provide all of us a great opportunity to get to know the people and places in our community better. And Open Streets is an AMAZING way to experience the joys of being on our streets without relying on a car. Music, food, games, and people of all ages engaged in joyful activities are all part of it. I hope to see you there!